by Mo Metcalf Fisher

The Countryside Alliance was joined by Peers, Members of the Senedd, MPs, Ministers including members of the Cabinet, and journalists at a special event in the House of Commons on 6 September 2022 to mark 20 years since the monumental Liberty and Livelihood march.

Representatives from across the political divide came together to show their support for the rural way of life while reflecting on the march, which remains one of the biggest civil liberties demonstrations in British history. The march saw hundreds of thousands join together in the capital in a peaceful march through Westminster.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “We were incredibly pleased to be joined by a number of familiar faces from the original march in 2002, while also welcoming a number of new parliamentarians who either attended the march before taking up politics or those who have since become allies and friends of the countryside”. 

He added: “The Alliance is proud to count a large number of parliamentarians as supporters in the struggle to promote and protect our way of life. This event served as yet another reminder of that and we shall continue to engage with political influencers at all levels of government, be it local or national, to ensure our goals are achieved.”

Many guests in attendance proudly sported original Liberty and Livelihood merchandise, including sweaters and badges while every guest received the latest 20-year-anniversary badge.

Lord Herbert, the Chairman of the Countryside Alliance opened the first of four speeches.

He said: “The Alliance was set up in the wake of that march, by brilliant people, simply to give the countryside a voice.”

“There was very strong feeling, particularly because of the hunting bill, but also because of many policies that country people never felt they had a voice in; that the views of those who live in the countryside were being dismissed. After hundreds of thousands of people had marched on the streets of Westminster, no one could say we were a small voice.”

Lord Herbert recalled the “extraordinary sense of solidarity”, and the presence of people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, “united by one simple thing; the love of the countryside and, fundamentally, freedom – in the end, it was a march for freedom.”

He added “the battleground” has changed, as have the threats, but there are also those in both Houses of Parliament fighting on the countryside’s behalf, as well as the Alliance, which is “needed now as much as ever”.

Greg Smith, the Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire who kindly sponsored the event, addressed attendees saying he was optimistic about the future.

A supporter of Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister, Mr Smith said he had questioned both candidates about their stance on the rural way of life during the Conservative Party leadership election. Mr Smith said: “It gave me great confidence that the countryside’s way of life is safe in our new Prime Minister’s hands.”

Reflecting on the march, Countryside Alliance stalwart and President, Baroness Mallalieu, also addressed the crowd, saying: “Anyone who was there on the march will never forget it.”

She also cited the Hyde Park rally five years before, citing one attendee who said, “I went in feeling small and came out feeling 10 feet tall because I realised we weren’t alone in our relatively isolated rural communities.”

“I remember Michael Howard and Michael Heseltine saying afterwards ‘For the first time, I know why we won the war,’” she said. “People from every background marching together for something we really cared about.”

She added that parliamentarians have since been “fighting a steady battle”, but that the effects of the Hunting Act are being seen.

“At the time, Labour had over 100 rural seats,” she said. “It’s now 17. It’s not possible to win a substantial majority without support from the rural communities.

“Full credit to those in Parliament brave enough to stand up and put the case for our communities and keeping our way of life going. I hope the new PM will be sympathetic, but also that there will be politicians brave enough to say, ‘We got this one wrong.’ Because they did.”

We're commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Liberty and Livelihood March with a new badge. You can show your support for the countryside by adding it to your collection! Buy your badge here.

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